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Ker Reaches for Higher Level of Play : Volleyball: CSUN women’s coach looking for early Division I wins to lift team’s confidence.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It is time.

The Cal State Northridge outside and middle hitters might lose confidence if they don’t play someone else and fast .

How else to make sure that their powerful spikes won’t be miraculously dug out just before they hit the floor?

That’s what happens in practice every day. It is but one indication of the depth that should serve the Northridge women’s volleyball team well in its first season at the Division I level.

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The first CSUN team to make its Division I debut this season, the Matadors will begin play today in the Arizona State tournament in Tempe. They will open against Texas Tech at 3 p.m., and will play the host team at 7 p.m. On Saturday, Northridge will take on Northern Arizona at 11 a.m. and UC Irvine at 5 p.m.

“It’s a big weekend,” Coach Walt Ker said. “Our players need to know they can beat Division I schools. I think all four schools offer a challenge, and I think--underline think--we won’t get blown out of the water.”

While Ker knew Division II volleyball like the back of his hand, he cannot say the same about Division I.

Especially because Division I teams stopped playing Northridge several years ago. They had nothing to gain with a win and everything to lose with a loss to the three-time Division II national champion (1980, ’83, ’87), which finished no lower than third from 1980-88.

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Last season, the Matadors went 26-11 but did not advance to the national tournament. Three starters, middle hitters Marianne and Kathleen Dixon and left-side hitter Nancy Nicholls, return. Left-side hitter Patricia Fitzsimmons, right-side setter Michelle Swalec, defensive specialist Karen Scholl, who will take Marianne Dixon’s place when she rotates to the back row, and setter Beth Welch, round out the lineup.

Welch, a senior transfer from Washington State, beat out incumbent sophomore starter Alison Wool. “Every coach has to develop a philosophy about one-year players and transfer students and how much loyalty is involved,” Ker said.

“I operate from the best players play theory. This is a competitive setting and I recruit the best players I can. We knew Beth could play and we welcomed her with open arms.”


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